I have to be honest: I’ve never been a fan of experimental films. I’ve only seen a handful, but I did not enjoy any of them. For me to appreciate a film, I need fleshed out characters, a (semi)-solid storyline, and at least some sense of closure at the end. Most experimental films have plots that jump around, characters that are “off” for no reason, and the story leaves the viewer hanging at the finish.
As such, I’m having a hard time deciphering my feelings about MEAT, a recent release from Artsploitation Films. While not solidly experimental in classification, the movie has many of the traits associated with these kind of films. If I’m basing my review on entertainment value alone, I suppose I’d have to say it’s decent, but not fantastic; it kept my attention, but only because I was struggling to figure out what was happening and why. In the end, I guess I have to say watch this one for yourself and draw your own conclusion as to whether or not it merits accolades.
If you are not familiar with MEAT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:
This surreal erotic thriller is set in a flesh-filled and violence-prone butcher shop. A large, lustful butcher, used to living out his sexual fantasies in the shop, becomes interested in Roxy, his young female apprentice. The girl, documenting everything with a video camera, enthusiastically gets involved with him. But when the butcher is murdered and a police inspector, who looks exactly like the dead butcher, investigates the crime, the story takes on a dreamlike quality. A visually explicit, beguiling tale – think Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, meets Gaspar Noé’s Carne by way of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen.
From a production standpoint, MEAT looks pretty good. The sets are great, the acting is very good, and the attention to detail is superb. The cinematography is interesting, and has some great and unusual camera angles. And there’s a nice dose of absurdity to the events that unfold (I particularly enjoyed how everybody was using the meat locker as a hook-up spot for sex).
But I never could figure out who the characters were or why they were acting in the manner shown onscreen. For example, we are introduced to a woman who appears to be the butcher’s wife or girlfriend. But then, she starts having sex with other men. This is never explained, and I was left assuming she was a prostitute. But later in the film, after the butcher has died, she is mournful, like a wife missing her husband. I was completely lost.
Also confusing in MEAT was the fact that the butcher and the detective investigating his murder were both played by the same actor. This caused some MAJOR confusion towards the end of the film, when the detective shaves his head to match that of the deceased butcher. As the movie concluded, I couldn’t figure out if the events were happening in real time or if they were a surrealistic fever dream. While the credits rolled, my frustration grew.
Perhaps I need to watch the film again…maybe I missed something the first time around. I don’t know. But for now I’ll just say it is an ok movie. I will probably revisit it again soon, but I don’t know for sure. MEAT is available now.